Cloning 'morally abhorrent' says Hume
BI PATRICK WEST CARDINAL HUME this week condemned the proposal to allow the cloning of human embryos as a "grave and alarming development."
He told The Catholic Herald: Front the moment an embryo is created, we are dealing with a human subject that should always be treated with reverence and respect. It would be morally abhorrent for new human lives to be created simply for harvesting human tissue."
Urging a ban on human reproductive cloning. the Cardinal said that even if the treating of disease could be accelerated by the new proposal it cannot justify doing what is wrong: we are dealing with human lives.
The response comes after Tuesday's publication of a Government-commissioned report by the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). While stopping short of calling for the use of embryos for reproductive cloning, the report recommends the cloning of human material for therapeutic means.
The report was not due for publication until next year, but was rushed out early at the request of ministers under intense pressure from biotech
nology companies eager for clearer guidelines on cloning.
The technique will allow the cloning of a human embryo at 8 to 10 days growth. The embryo would be allowed to develop in a test tube to the point whele a line of stem cells, the basic cells which have the potential to become any part of the human body, have developed. It is thought that the cloning process will help cure diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The report says the issues should be reexamined in five years to take into account scientific developments and changes in public opinion.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children called the report "'irresponsible" for failing to respect the humanity of embryos. LIFE expressed "horror" at the recommendation which it said "amounts to the promotion of a new form of technological cannibalism in which the victims are real living members of the human race." The Movement Against the Cloning of Humans said it was "dismayed" at the announcement, which it called "a whitewash".
A spokesman said: -Therapeutic cloning involves the deliberate creation and destruction of tiny human beings and is therefore ethically even worse than pregnancy cloning." Josephine Quin
tavalk of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said the report sought to "convince the public to accept 'therapeutic' cloning in order to soften the way for human reproductive cloning."
Nicholas Coate, assistant general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the report was unacceptable. "Cloning produces a strange embryo but it is still an individual of the human species and this is not morally acceptable," he said.
Mr Coote blamed the ambitions of pharmaceutical companies for the proposal. "The trouble is that need and greed go together, and so the ethical debate is in vain."
The make up of the committee of HGAC and HFEA members is heavily weighted towards the scientific community. Of the four individuals on the working party which produced the report, three were scientists, and of these, two were associated with pharmaceutical companies. Dr Anne McLaren of the HFEA works with the Wellcome/CRC histitute, while Dr George Poste FRS, works for SmithKline Beecham.
Fr Paul Murray, secretary of the Bio-Ethics committee, said: "It doesn't matter whether the embryo is destroyed or allowed to live, it's still an abuse of the embryo."